By: Kymberly Amara
If onward and upward was a person, it would be Munson Steed. Anytime you have the opportunity to sit down with what many would call a culture-change agent you should have a pen and pad in hand and be ready to take copious notes. We recently had the opportunity to speak with the self-proclaimed “Thought Producer” and media mogul where he dropped gem after gem for us to glean from both personally and collectively. As the founder of Steed Agency Strategies that brought us the culture-defining, Rolling Out Magazine, Steed shared several gems with us on pivoting, inclusion, and the Black collective that we hope you will glean from and find just as helpful as we did.
On Founding & Establishing Rolling Out & Steed Media Group
“We came into creation at a moment in time when there really weren’t any alternative weekly’s…we were in that moment 24 years ago where there weren’t that many Blacks on the covers of alternative weekly’s.” While recalling the earlier days of establishing the magazine he says, “…we were able to come when Usher was coming out, OutKast was coming out, Toni Braxton and L.A. Reid had LaFace Records in Atlanta and so we created a brand that if you say, ‘what are we doing, I’m rolling out and it made sense there was a community that was rolling out. Hip hop was moving, the entire community was moving as a force and so for us, we said well, we’re rolling out.”
Today, Rolling out has pivoted offering multiple programs and platforms that extend beyond music and entertainment that solidifies itself as a lifestyle brand for the community. “We think of ourselves as a Black collective, we don’t want to think of ourselves as oooh it’s just this special black, no, we don’t do special black at Rolling Out because all Black is special. So we don’t have that oooh I’m just gonna do the bourgeois, no we understand that group and love’em, but I love my community that is born into struggle. There are people even in 2021 that are born into struggle and at the end of the day that’s where we want to meet them and provide some level of service and so when you see us in our non-profit, the Steed Society, we do health, we do financial education, we do outreach, we talk about HIV, we talk about transgender, we talk about how to get a loan, we give out skill sets because skill-set acquisition is very important for us. We want to highlight and recognize the most brilliant, but we want to highlight people before they blow up and after, so we want the bigs and the smalls because once again there is not a special Black there is only one Black and we celebrate it all.”
Celebrating all black doesn’t come easy either. An important component in ensuring all voices are represented involves a heavy focus on inclusivity at a level that cares not about an individual’s socioeconomic status, education, or family lineage. To achieve this, respect and inclusivity should be at the forefront.
On the importance of Diversity & Inclusion
“It’s really important that we understand that media and entertainment are only 5% of the gross national product (GNP). So, we are successful in that area, but there are a lot of opportunities in a lot of other areas, construction, and the likes and we have to see this. We really have to see this and reprioritize where our skill sets fit. Why I say that it’s important for diversity and inclusion is because we are invested. When I say receipt shareholders, we literally have to have support because for every corporation whether it’s McDonald’s, whether it’s Coke, whether it’s Chevy people that we partner with, it is important because my community supports them. So it is important that the people that may not do enough. So, Citibank they take our deposits are they advertising with Black-owned? Not just running Black commercials, not just saying black things. Are they actually buying Black media so that I can highlight the individuals that are actually supporting them? It’s important that I’m able as a storyteller to tell the stories that inspire my community to see the options that they have to know about the pitfalls that exist for their community and I need to be able to carry that message. It’s important that I get corporate, foundational support in order to move us ahead. That is a constant demand that we [the Black community] must-see. The consumerism has to kind of pause so that we can understand, let’s invest in ourselves. Let’s not take designer badges to make them be how we feel about ourselves. We must look at ourselves and study our forefathers’ research and understand and read the lives of many of our Black forefathers because they are saying things that seem new but they’ve said them before.
On Bridging the Generational Gap & the Black Movement
“There are principles that hold tight with respect. You say I’m here, we’re working together at this time, culturally, I have to love you and myself enough to know that there’s a ten-minute window just culturally in our moment. I might have been singing, I might have an idea to share with you. Well, if that’s our culture…sometimes when we move, we might believe that we don’t know what this generation is connected to and it’s connected to a culture and a principle. It’s called family. There’s always lineage and legacy, so in all of the things that we share we hold onto the lineage, the legacy, and what we’re doing.” It is undoubtedly incumbent on all of us to ensure that we not only respect each other but lend ourselves to exhibit compassion and understanding as we all navigate this life and this space together. If we shift our thoughts and look at collaboration as more of a concept that will elevate not one of us but all of us, then we can elevate ourselves collectively, individually, and economically.
On the Importance of Pivoting Both Culturally & Individually
“As collaborators, it is upon me to understand that Black Wallstreet is not a place, it’s also a concept in how I approach my business model. So, if I don’t have a black business person that is a contractor, if I don’t have a black business person that is a writer, if I don’t have a black person that is a doctor, if I don’t create my Wallstreet, then I am in denial. It is important that we have and are able to spend money within our community and it is important that we revel in the idea that understands the reason we require something from corporate America is because we are receipt shareholders.” In regard to pivoting individually, Steed goes on to say, “Life changes every day, you get older. Business is the same way and so technology allows you to be able to move and do things that you couldn’t do yesterday, so you must embrace change. Pivoting is the value proposition that says I am better off as I pivot and learn and embrace the changes that will have me empowered. You have to see something inside you that says there is a new me that wakes up every day and the new me inside of me every day has an opportunity if I will renew my spirit and faith and passion and insight and vision to accompany it with a changing landscape that is offering me the opportunity if I will meet it where it is.”
Now more than ever it is important that we choose to show up daily and do the work. We must also be aware of how we show up to be most effective. As a master collaborator, Steed has created multiple platforms that offer “safe spaces with benefits” to, “grow and love our community” through Rolling Out and Steed Agency Strategies.
On His Latest Endeavor, Playful Genius
“I wanted to make sure that she and her friends could see what I thought was that international Black. I want young girls to see that international Black is real. You didn’t start off in these United States, you were literally forced; migrated here. You have a history. Your hair is international. I want you to understand that you can see this whole bold idea of yourself but it’s called Little Professor Skye. So you’re a teacher, you’re a leader, you must share ideas, you must have your own lab. You must understand math and science. You need to understand that you’re a leader. Obviously, you’re involved in the arts [and] you have people in your life that say respect yourself and what you where is how you care.” In his children’s book, Atom Smart, which is geared towards young boys, Steed says, “…for me I wanted one, he has a scientific name, two, we are all made up of atoms so three, I wanted there to be a rationale.” He also makes note that when referring to Atom’s family you are referencing the mother, father, and brother respectively as Mr. Smart, Mrs. Smart, and brother Smart that all reiterate a positive concept. He also has the Plush Crew to target the 0-4-year-old age group to inspire the genius within them.
Steed’s goal is to leave behind a treasure trove and body of work that the Black community can glean from to motivate and inspire current and future generations to be bold, brilliant, and proud as we collectively walk into the future.